Sprained Big Toe – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Exercise

A sprained big toe is a common injury with a number of potential causes, usually resulted by jamming your big toe while walking, jumping or running. It can be caused by several other reasons and injuries.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about toe sprains.

How to tell if your toe is sprained​?

Although less serious than a broken toe, a toe sprain is an injury that can be painful. Specifically, a toe sprain is a hyperextension of the ligaments that surround the toe joint.​

Toe sprains are more likely to happen when you are walking or running on rough or uneven terrain. Hiking, climbing, and trail running, for example, are common activities that can cause toe sprains.

Sports like football, soccer, wrestling, gymnastics, and dance are also common activities for this type of injury. A sprained toe is sometimes called turf toe because of how common the injury is for those who play on artificial turf like football and soccer players​.

Toe sprains are more likely when wearing shoes without adequate support. The flexible shoes worn by soccer players, for example, let the foot bend in a way that can lead to toe sprains.​

Causes of Sprained Pinky Toe

A sprained toe is usually caused by jamming the toe against something. This can happen by:

  • Stubbing your toe by colliding with something when walking or running.
  • Landing improperly on your toe when jumping.
  • Repeatedly pushing off the toe vigorously, like when running or jumping.
  • Starting or stopping suddenly
  • Walking barefoot, especially on uneven ground

Symptoms of Sprained Big Toe

  • pain and tenderness
  • swelling around toe
  • discolorattion or bruising
  • limited ability to move the toe joint
  • a "popping" feeling at the time of injury

Treatment of Sprained Toe

The best treatment for toe sprains is a relatively easy home remedy known as R.I.C.E. This is an acronym for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

R.I.C.E.​

Rest: It's important to take some time off and avoid exercise or other vigorous activity. This gives your toe time to heal.

For an especially bad toe sprain, you should even avoid walking and standing as much as you can. Using crutches can help you avoid putting any pressure on the toe.

Ice: Putting ice on the injured toe can help reduce swelling and inflammation. This can help soothe and numb the pain. It can also encourage the healing process.

​For the best results, it's important to alternate your use of ice. You should only leave the ice on for 20 minutes at a time. You can repeat the use of ice every few hours, especially in the early days of the injury.

Never place ice or an ice pack directly against the skin. Instead, wrap the ice or ice pack in a thin towel before placing it on the toe​

Compression: Wrapping or taping the toe can help reduce swelling. It can also keep the toe immobilized, preventing further strain.

Depending on the toe, this may be difficult to do. Be careful not to wrap the injured toe too tightly.

Elevation: Reducing the blood flow to the toe through elevation can help with healing. Elevation can also reduce swelling and minimize the amount of pain you feel.

When laying down, rest the foot on a few pillows. When sitting, bring the leg up to rest on a pillow on top of a chair or on a footstool or ottoman.​

For best results, make sure to elevate the injured toe to a position above the level of your heart. Elevation and icing go well together, so use your ice pack on the toe while elevating it.

Buddy Wrapping - How to Wrap a Sprained Toe?​

​To minimize the amount of movement on your toe, you can tape it to a neighboring toe. This helps keep the injured toe in a healthy position and minimizes the risk of further strain.

​Buddy wrapping can be done by a doctor, but you can also do it at home with medical tape. Just be careful not to wrap the tape too tightly.

Pain Medications​

​Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can help treat pain from a toe sprain. It's best to consult with a doctor first.

​Natural pain relieving agents like ginger can also be used. Ginger tea or food made with fresh ginger can be comforting and ginger is known to reduce pain.

Exercises​

​Once your toe has had a little rest and time to heal, there are several exercises you can do to help further your recovery. These exercises may be a part of a physical therapy regimen.

​It's important when doing toe exercises not to push too hard, too fast. Always stop when pain becomes severe.

Toe Calisthenics: While sitting, slowly and gently move the toe up and down. Repeat this several times, then move the toe in both clockwise and counterclockwise circles for several repetitions.

Toe Raise and Press: After the toe has had some time to heal and you've done several days of toe calisthenics, you can try toe raises and presses. While holding onto something, slowly raise up onto your toes and then lower. Repeat several times, stopping if pain is severe.

​While standing, press the toe firmly into the ground. Do the same thing with your toe raised, pressing the toe against the wall or a door frame.

​What to Expect in a Doctor Visit for Sprained Toe?

​A doctor will want to rule out a more serious toe injury, like a toe fracture or a toe dislocation.

A doctor will first want to know how the injury occurred and hear what your symptoms are. The doctor will then examine the toe and will likely order an X-Ray to help make the diagnosis.

After a doctor diagnoses your toe injury as a sprain, he or she will likely advice you to use R.I.C.E. and may buddy wrap your toe. Physical therapy might be prescribed as well.

​Questions to Ask Doctors About Toe Sprains

​When visiting a physician about a potential toe sprain, you should ask the following questions:

  • ​How long can I expect it to take for my toe to heal?
  • What can I do to treat the pain?
  • How can I prevent future toe sprains?
  • Is it a mild sprain or a more severe sprain?

How Long Does it Take for a Toe Sprain to Heal?

​Recovery time will depend on the severity of the sprain. Mild sprains can heal in 1-2 weeks and you can expect a more severe sprain to be fully healed by 6 weeks.

Sprained toes are not a fun injury to have, but they can be treated and they will typically heal relatively quickly. A doctor can diagnose a toe sprain and offer treatment solutions that you can do at home.

Dr. Sachin
 

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